Dec. 12 (UPI) -- European property company Unibail-Rodamco will acquire mall operator Westfield in a $15 billion deal --joining the world's two largest shopping center owners, the companies announced Tuesday.
Australia-based Westfield owns 35 shopping centers in the United States and Britain -- including the World Trade Center in New York City and Century City in Los Angeles. Its malls, which also are located in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, have 6,400 retail outlets and total assets under management of $32 billion.
Westfield shopping areas are also in New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. It also is building a new shopping center adjacent to Linate Airport in Milan, to be completed in 2020.
Three years ago, Westfield spun off its Australian and New Zealand businesses into a separately listed company.
Unibail-Rodamco owns 69 shopping centers in 11 countries in Europe, including Paris's prominent Forum Des Halles. It plans to rebrand its properties under the Westfield banner. Its portfolio of assets are valued $49.8 billion.
The combined company, which will be valued at about $72.2 billion, will be based in Paris and the Netherlands, with regional headquarters in Los Angeles and London.
Both boards of directors approved the transaction, which is expected to close in the first half of next year.
"The acquisition of Westfield is a natural extension of Unibail-Rodamco's strategy of concentration, differentiation and innovation," said Christophe Cuvillier, CEO of Unibail-Rodamco, in a statement. "It adds a number of new attractive retail markets in London and the wealthiest catchment areas in the United States."
Westfield shareholders will receive cash and stock as part of the deal.
Holocaust survivor Frank Lowy started Westfield in 1959 with a single shopping center in Sydney, Australia. Worth an estimated $5.9 billion from his stake in the mall operator, he will soon step down as chairman.
Lowy said the deal was "the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure."